The Scoop on Grains: Kamut

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my “Scoop on Grains” series! In past weeks, I’ve shared my family’s journey and we’ve discussed whole grains in general: their history and health benefits, and then moved on to look specifically at wheat. This time I want to take a brief look at kamut. In future weeks, we’ll continue looking at different types of whole grains.

Kamut is one of the most ancient grains. It originated in the Fertile Crescent and is probably a distant relative of our modern durum wheat (durum is the wheat generally used for pastas). The wheat in biblical times may have actually been more like kamut than our present common varieties of wheat. It was rediscovered and transplanted to America in 1949.

In 1949, a US airman stationed in Portugal was given 36 grains of kamut, said to have come from Egypt (some say it was found in a tomb!). He sent them to his father, a wheat farmer in Montana, who planted them. Thirty-two of the kernels germinated, producing more than 1500 bushels of the grain in less than six years. They were shown at a county fair as “King Tut’s Grain”, but the novelty soon wore off and the kamut was sold as cattle feed.

In 1977, Bob Quinn, a plant biochemist, remembered seeing the wheat at the county fair when he was young. He managed to collect a pint of the grain and began to do research on it. The results were promising, and by 1987 his family began producing the grain commercially.

Kamut is genetically part of the wheat family, yet it is tolerated by many people who can’t tolerate wheat. It’s 20-40% higher in protein than ordinary wheat, slightly higher in 8 of 9 minerals, considerably higher in magnesium and zinc, up to 65% higher in amino acids, and significantly higher in all the major fatty acids. Because of the higher protein and fat content, it’s considered a higher energy food, although it’s highly digestible compared to ordinary wheat.

The kernels are significantly larger than ordinary wheat, and a lighter, yellow color. The baked goods produced by kamut are lighter in both color and texture than ordinary wheat, a plus for those who are used to white flour rather than whole grain.

It can be used just like wheat in any recipe, substituting cup for cup. It has a unique, “buttery” taste and works well for both yeast and quick breads, but I especially like it for cookies and muffins. I’ve also been told that it makes excellent, light pasta.

Our family really enjoys kamut in a variety of items, from our favorite muffins and waffles to our ordinary yeast bread. We use kamut in a rotation with regular wheat and spelt, or I sometimes use it half and half. I mentioned before that rotating the types of grains your family eats is a good safeguard against developing intolerances or allergies. Kamut is a bit pricier than ordinary wheat, but not as expensive as spelt. I’ve ordered it both from Bob’s Red Mill and Breadbeckers.

Here are a few recipes that have worked great with kamut for me:

Try it in your favorite cookie or muffin recipe and see what you think!

Next we’ll take a look at spelt, another great substitute for ordinary wheat.

In the meantime, don’t miss the rest of the series:

  •  My Journey Part 1
  • My Journey Part 2
  • How Did We Get Here? (A Brief History of Whole Grains)
  • Whole Grains: Nutritionally Speaking
  • Wheat: Hard, Soft, Red, White, What’s the Difference?
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    1. Thanks for posting this info, Kara! I'm probably going to have to add some kamut to our diet.

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